I never even thought of Portugal before for a vacation.
Why have I never thought of it until now?
Well, they don’t market here and the tourist board is practically non-existent. It makes our job a good bit harder, but the scarcity of tourists outside of Lisbon and parts of the Algarve makes it that much more rewarding to visit. Try to find anyone who has been to Portugal beyond Lisbon and ask them what they think of Portugal.
I’ve already been to Spain. Isn’t it similar?
Not at all. It is completely different, Different language. Different culture. Different history. And they don’t eat as late.
I’ve already been to Lisbon. Is it worth returning?
Many clients visit Lisbon pre- or post-cruise and then return for more extensive travels. As much as we feel that Lisbon is one of Europe’s greatest capital cities, many of Portugal’s greatest treasures are far from Lisbon.
How much time do I need?
Portugal can be deceptive because it is so small. There is a lot to see and do and the short traveling times make it easy. Our clients’ average stay is between 10 and 14 days, although we have had a number of clients stay for four weeks.
Where is the best place to visit wineries in Portugal?
The most famous Portuguese wine is undoubtedly port. The grapes are grown in the Douro and the port houses are in Porto. Both are in Northern Portugal. There are also excellent reds coming out of the Douro. The Alentejo, between Lisbon and the Algarve, is also producing excellent wines and are developing a strong following outside of Portugal as well. Fortified Madeira wine of course comes from the island of Madeira. And there are excellent Vinho Verdes coming from Northern Portugal.
What goes on during grape harvest?
Frenetic activity. Much is still done by hand due to the terrain. You are welcome to join in the harvest. We more than happy to arrange for you to join in the stomping of grapes by foot in one of the few traditional estates that still do so.
Should I go to a bullfight?
Bullfights are very different than in Spain. For one thing, the bulls aren’t killed. Additionally, some of the bullfighters are women. While bullfighting on horseback exists in Spain, it is more common in Portugal.
Bullfights are not as frequent as they are in Spain.
What are the beaches like?
There are a lot of beaches along the south, in the Algarve. There is a small Atlantic beach in Cascais popular with Lisboetas in the summer. And while the island of Madeira is not exactly a beach destination, there are some small beaches. Besides it’s really beautiful.
Nuts and Bolts
How do I get around Portugal? Can I drive myself?
Most of our clients have a guide who also drives. Some clients choose to self-drive. Driving is on the same side of the road as in the U.S. Some of the mountain roads can be a bit of a challenge, though.
What are pousadas?
They are government owned and privately managed hotels all over Portugal, mostly in converted historic monuments such as monasteries and palaces. They vary from city to city, but are often excellent. We prefer them over Spanish paradors as they are managed by a private hotel chain, so service tends to be better, and most of the restorations were more recent than the paradors, so many feel fresher than the paradors in Spain.
Can I combine Spain and Portugal?
They are a great combination and many clients do just that. There are a number of excellent routes, but perhaps the two best are in the south heading towards Seville and going due north from Porto through one of Portugal’s prettiest areas to Santiago de Compostela. Of course, there are plenty of flights as well. If you want to do both countries, we really suggest having at least two weeks and deciding which parts you want to see of each.
How about Portugal and Morocco?
Same as above. There are no ferry connections, but there are frequent flights.
What is the best time to visit Portugal?
Generally spring and fall are beautiful. Summer is popular, especially for clients with families. The grape harvest time in the fall in the Douro is a lot of fun. The Algarve, the southern coast, has warm temperatures most of the year.
My cruise starts/ends in Lisbon; can you help me?
Give us a few days and we can show you a Lisbon that most cruise ship passengers never see.
There are a number of fantastic places to visit a short drive from Lisbon.
Is a visa required?
No visa is required for Americans. If you are from another country, please ask.